What Causes Curved Nails & When To Contact A Physician For It?

Topic Overview

The condition of the nails of a person speaks volumes of the overall health status of that individual. Among the various changes that can be seen in the nails, curving of nails is one. It is not always a cause of worry if a person has curved nails but still experts recommend that a physician should be consulted. This becomes more important if the curving of nails is accompanied by other symptoms as well [1, 2, 3].

In most cases, the nails indicating a health problem will curve outward moving away from the nail bed.  There are various types of nail curving that can be seen.  These include spoon nails in which the nails become excessively soft and curved to an extent that it can hold a droplet of water.  It is medically termed as koilonychia.  This is normally seen in infants and tends resolves spontaneously.  If it occurs in adults and does not go away on its own then it indicates an underlying medical condition like iron deficiency anemia [3].

Curving at the tips of the nails occur when the tissue under the nail becomes abnormally thick.  The fingertips in such instances become rounded so that the nails curve around them.  The primary cause for this is increased blood supply to the fingertips.  This is generally hereditary and may be benign but in some cases indicates a health concern especially if it occurs much later in life [3].

Curving of the nails around the sides occur normally in the toenails.  It is usually caused as a result of ingrown nails. Wearing shoes that are too tight may be a reason for ingrown nails. Improper cutting of toenails can also at times can cause Curved Nails [3].

What Causes Curved Nails?

As stated, Curved Nails sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition. This condition may be temporary such as from an environmental pathogen like fungus or sometimes it can be caused due to chronic medical conditions.  Some of the medical conditions that cause Curved Nails include: [3]

Iron Deficiency Anemia: The levels of the iron decide the health status of the skin, hairs, and nails. A deficiency in iron levels often can lead to Curved Nails. Iron deficiency anemia can result due to some medical condition, as a result of pregnancy, increased blood loss during menstrual periods, and low iron diet. Additionally symptoms of iron deficiency anemia includes persistent fatigue, weakness, tachycardia, headaches, and hair loss [3].

Treatment: Eating a diet rich in iron like pork, beef, broccoli, kale, and lamb are quite effective in treating iron deficiency anemia.  Iron supplements prescribed by a physician are also beneficial for people with iron deficiency anemia. In severe cases of anemia, intravenous supplementation of iron may be required [3].

Nail Psoriasis: This is perhaps the most common condition that causes Curved Nails.  It has been estimated that about 90-95% of people with psoriasis develop this condition at some point or the other.  Other symptoms of nail psoriasis include thickening of the nails [3].

Treatment:  The best way to treat nail psoriasis is to use topical creams, injections, phototherapy, and also oral medications [3].

Raynaud’s Disease: This is quite a rare medical condition that affects the arteries and causes them to get stenosed thereby interrupting blood supply to various parts of the body including the fingers and toes.  Because of this, the fingers and toes tend to turn pale and white, become erythematous, feel numb, tingle, and pain along with Curved Nails [3].

Treatment: There is no cure for Raynaud disease but medications and sometimes surgery may help in managing the symptoms of this disease [3].

Hemochromatosis: This is a genetic condition that results in the body absorbing excessive iron from the diet and can cause Curved Nails.  Additional symptoms of this condition include hair loss, discoloration of skin, unintentional weight loss, pain in the joints, liver dysfunction, abdominal pain, weakness, and fatigue.  Hemochromatosis is quite a serious disease and can damage the liver, heart, and pancreas.  The disease can prove to be fatal if proper treatment is not rendered due to iron toxicity [3].

Treatment: Since hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder there is no cure.  The symptoms can be managed with periodic removal of blood to maintain the levels of iron within normal range.  Dietary changes also are quite effective for treatment of hemochromatosis [3].

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: This is autoimmune disorder that is the most common form of lupus in the United States and often causes Curved Nails.  Additional symptoms of this condition include persistent fatigue, rashes, pain and swelling in the joints, photophobia, fever, issues with the functioning of the lungs [3].

Treatment: As systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder it does not have a cure but treatments in the form immunosuppressive drugs are quite effective in controlling the symptoms [3].

When To Contact A Physician For Curved Nails?

It is recommended to get physician consultation in situations where Curved Nails are accompanied by symptoms that have been mentioned above.  This will help in getting to the bottom of the cause of Curved Nails and formulate a treatment plan depending on the cause that is best suited for the patient.  It should be noted that conditions like hemochromatosis need to be identified and treated early to prevent complications that can be life threatening for the patient [3].

In conclusion, Curved Nails generally do not pose any threat to the health of a person.  However, there are instances especially when it is accompanied by certain symptoms that have been outlined above where it indicates an underlying medical condition.  These conditions range from iron deficiency anemia to something as serious as hemochromatosis [1, 2, 3].

It is important to understand the symptoms of these conditions and consult with a physician if Curved Nails do not resolve spontaneously or if a person is suspicious that he or she may have a medical condition that may be causing Curved Nails [1, 2, 3].

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